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Erecting and Siting Bird Nest Boxes
By Ark Wildlife
1st October 2013
Bird nest boxes should ideally face between north and east. This will catch morning sunshine but avoid the heat of the midday sun. It will also keep them out of our prevailing wind and rain which usually comes from the west. The bird nest box should ideally also be tilted marginally forward to allow any rain to run clear of the entrance. This all helps create a more suitable and safe environment for eggs and growing birds.
Bird Nest Box Installation height:
For small Hole and Open nest boxes:
In gardens, nest boxes can be hung at eye-level (1 to 2m) to enable them to be checked and cleaned from the ground. In parks, woodlands and orchards, boxes can be hung at between 2.5 and 4m (open boxes for birds such as robins should not be sited above 2m) and some research suggests these higher levels show a higher level of occupancy. Do not put anything inside the box; small birds always build new nests each year.
Larger nest boxes for owls, hawks and doves.
Hang between 4-6m. Such boxes will be more readily adopted if a thick layer of wood shavings or sawdust is spread over the hollowed out floor of the box.
Direction of the entrance hole:
The entrance hole should usually face north-east to south-east to avoid strong sunshine and the wettest winds but this is not always necessary if the site is sheltered from the wind.
Number of nest boxes for gardens or open space:
The number of nest boxes depends on the particular habitat and its surroundings. In gardens a nest box can be hung on every second tree if there are few other nesting sites nearby. No minimum distance is required between the birds; two pairs of tits will happily breed right next to each other. Depending on the available supply of food and the season, birds will determine the minimum distance themselves. In woodland, depending on the age and type of trees, and the level of predators present, approximately 5-15 nest boxes can be hung per acre.
In general the different types of nest boxes should be distributed as follows:
Depending on local habitat and birds present, approximately 60% of nest boxes should have holes with a diameter of 32-35mm and 20% of diameter 25-28mm. The remaining 20% should consist of nest boxes suitable for tree creepers, open-fronted nest boxes or nest boxes for birds that nest in crevices. Not all the nest boxes will be occupied by nestlings because many may also be used as a night time refuge or to store food. If 60-70% of the boxes are found to have been occupied, this is regarded as saturation level but figures will vary naturally from year to year. Specialist boxes such as owls and hawks should be sited sparingly because they require large hunting territories and will fight vigorously to protect good nesting sites.
Cleaning Bird Nest Boxes:
Nest boxes can be cleaned by removing the old nest completely. This can be done during October and November. Simply scrape out the old nest, the use of a spray or similar product is only recommended from propriety bird cleaning brands as many household cleaning fluids may be toxic to birds. If the nest box is very soiled or full of parasites, it is advisable to wash it out with boiling water and an animal/bird safe disinfectant.
When fixing a bird box to a tree use adjustable straps that expand with the tree, or special aluminum nails. Aluminum nails are particularly useful because they avoid the damage which copper or steel nails will cause to the tree and are safe for chainsaws and blades if the timber is subsequently cut.
Occupancy by other animals:
Most of our natural ancient landscape has been lost leaving a shortage of nesting places for all our wildlife. As a result, nest boxes may be occupied by species other than those for which they were intended, such as bumble bees, wasps, and various small mammals. All of them deserve protection, so leave them undisturbed.
We also stock a wide range of specialist nest boxes for many such creatures.